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Work begins on advanced research center at BNY

The Pratt Institute, New York City College of Technology (City Tech) and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC) are partnering to create a new  advanced research and applied learning facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Construction on the project, which received funding from the New York City Council, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and New York State, is expected to be complete by early 2022.

The Research Yard will connect faculty and students from both Pratt and City Tech with the Yard’s ecosystem of more than 500 businesses.

The co-location of a public and private university facility within a community of businesses will create the opportunity for faculty and entrepreneurs to collaborate on industry-relevant research and new product development.

 Students, faculty, and industry professionals will work together on research projects, sharing cutting-edge technology and equipment and co-producing finished projects. This unique partnership offers students the rare opportunity to build their professional networks to help them secure internships and jobs in the fields they’re interested in working in.

The concept of a shared research facility between Pratt faculty, Brooklyn Navy Yard, and the community was originally conceived as the “Pratt Research Yard.” The initiative has since expanded and become a public/private partnership that is now called the “Research Yard of Pratt Institute, City Tech, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard,” or, informally, the Research Yard.

The Research Lab will be located in Building 3

“In bringing two renowned academic institutions to a major job hub, the Research Yard will open doors for students by offering a hands-on learning environment,” said David Ehrenberg, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. “This unique partnership is an extension of the Yard’s mission to create a pipeline of quality jobs, while also providing the experiential learning and skill building that make these jobs accessible to the local community. We look forward to starting work on this exciting project and welcoming a new generation to the Navy Yard.”

“Building this advanced creative research facility just blocks from the Pratt campus and alongside the businesses and entrepreneurs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is crucial for New York City, and especially for the Borough of Brooklyn. The Research Yard of Pratt Institute, City Tech, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard will further enable our research leaders to work with the local community on today’s important challenges,” said Pratt Institute President Frances Bronet. “We are deeply appreciative of the funding support we have received from the city and state, and with this latest investment from the City Council.”

“Nearly half of our students live and work in Brooklyn and over 90% of our students reside in New York City.  The Research Yard will provide a seamless and braided experience for our students and faculty to work alongside local workforce talent and tech industries,” said City Tech’s Dean of the School of Technology & Design, Dr. Gerarda Shields. “Funding for the Research Yard is a testament to the NY City Council’s commitment of forwarding City Tech as a national engine of economic mobility in Downtown Brooklyn.”

The Research Yard will be headquartered in a 27,000 s/f  space in the Navy Yard’s eleven-story Building 3, originally built in 1918 at the end of World War I.

The space, which was configured as a traditional warehouse and fulfillment center, will be transformed by architectural firm Smith-Miller + Hawkinson, LLP into a 21st century industry-education research model supporting the creative economy.

With Pratt consolidating and relocating all its research centers and accelerators to the Research Yard, the newly designed open plan facility will include fabrication labs as well as research areas for the study of robotics, information visualization, sustainability, community development, environmental sensing, design incubation in rural areas, and digital archeology, along with a number of accelerators. 

The space will also house a facility for the New York City College of Technology (CUNY City Tech), where CUNY students and faculty will gain hands-on experience collaborating with industry professionals from the Yard’s ecosystem of more than 500 businesses, along with their peers from Pratt.

A total of $6 million has been earmarked for the Research Yard, including $4.2 million from the New York City Council, with an additional $1.8 million coming from Pratt, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY).

At the same time, the facility will provide much-needed fabrication space for City Tech staff and students. The Research Yard will expand access for City Tech faculty and students to gain hands-on experience with cutting-edge technologies and the industry professionals that use them. By providing real-time feedback loops from learning to industry application, City Tech faculty and students will benefit from industry-immersed research and applied learning within an authentic work environment. Industry partners will benefit from an infusion of knowledge and research, while helping to invest in the development of a skilled pipeline of City Tech students who are equipped with the skills and experiences needed to fill entry-level roles at their businesses.  The Research Yard under City Tech will focus on the following technologies:

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Collaborative Robot (Cobots) and Automation technology focuses on robotic solutions that make manufacturing and warehouses more efficient, cost-effective and safe with collaborative robots sharing workspace with people and allowing for products to be made with more precision than ever before.

Building Performance and Digital Fabrication is a response to the need for more sustainable and energy efficient structures, now with the emphasis on healthy buildings in a pandemic era and beyond.  Digital fabrication has been embraced by both the architectural and engineering industries.  The Yard will enable faculty and students to utilize three types of digital fabrication methods: additive manufacturing, subtractive manufacturing and robotic manipulation.

Remote Sensing Technology for a Climate Resilient Future requires accurate, precise data – and a lot of it.  With the assistance of drone technology, data can be collected real-time and with increased spatial, spectral and temporal resolution allowing for more accurate climate predictions.

With Pratt research centers and accelerators housed at the facility, the Research Yard will support the local community in a variety of research initiatives. Pratt’s Consortium for Research and Robotics will incubate small businesses and expand its community engagement and corporate research partners, while local manufacturing members at the Navy Yard that are already part of the Pratt Center for Community Development’s Made in NYC initiative will extend this network. The Pratt Sustainability Center plans to create a GIVE/TAKE program overseen by students where art supplies and other materials can be recycled and reused by the community, and the Spatial Analysis and Visualization Initiative, which uses geographic information systems (GIS)-centered research as well as mapping, data, design and visualization to understand and empower urban communities. The centers that are being relocated to the Research Yard include:

The Consortium for Research and Robotics (CRR) is a new model for collaboration, competition, and creativity with New York City’s largest industrial robot. Currently housed in the BNYDC, the CRR has unique facilities, professional and academic networks, and various other resources. The CRR will move from its current location to the PRY facility.

Spatial Analysis and Visualization Initiative (SAVI) is a geographic information systems-focused research center that uses mapping, data and design to better understand urban communities. The lab provides technical solutions, and resources to nonprofit organizations that need to better understand their data to make informed decisions.

In addition to engagement with BNYDC tenants, The Research Yard will connect Pratt and City Tech students, faculty and staff with the Brooklyn Navy Yard STEAM Center, a career and technical training high school for 11th and 12th grade students who come from eight Brooklyn public high schools. Alongside faculty, college and high school students will participate in research addressing real world problems ranging from sustainability in manufacturing processes, an important focus for the Navy Yard in adapting 20th-century industrial buildings for 21st-century uses. Inviting high school students to participate in this crucial research will allow students to improve the landscape of today as New York recovers from the toll of the pandemic while offering them pathways to become leaders in future resiliency efforts.

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